Savor the bites of spring

Updated: 2016-03-22 08:31

By Mike Peters/Xu Junqian(China Daily USA)

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On restaurant tables around China, there is a new freshness awaiting diners whether their tastes look to the East or to the West, Mike Peters and Xu Junqian report.

The first warm breezes of the season stir thoughts of romance, of a new wardrobe and of food markets brimming with the earliest strawberries, asparagus, spring onions and tender lamb. China's restaurants and hotels get especially creative at this time of the year - many with special menus for Easter Sunday this weekend - and we've explored a number of their offerings. Anybody's favorite restaurant is likely well worth a look soon, too.


Name that toon

If people living on the south and north banks of Yangtze River could reach one agreement on food, it might be the tradition to eat Chinese toon sprout in spring. Chef Du Caiqing at Xindalu Chinese Kitchen restaurant is celebrating the season by having it shredded and blanched with tofu. The distinctive aroma of the leaves is something like durian - you either become addicted to it or sniff unhappily at it. Those who love it should try the hot dish - omelet made with toon sprouts and shrimps. It's the Chinese equivalent of the French scrambled eggs with truffles, where the heady flavor of the vegetable works best with such simple ingredient as eggs.

Xindalu, Hyatt on the Bund, 199 Huangpu Road, Hongkou district; 021-6393-1234, Ext 6318.

Seawater duck

The duck knows first when the spring sneaks up under water, as a Chinese poem goes. On dining tables at The Cook, the duck might also be a pioneer in forecasting the season. Using seawater ducks from Hainan province, chef Otto Goh defines the flavor of spring with a pure, simple bowl of duck soup that is seasoned with nothing but salt. Raised on the beaches of Hainan island, the seawater ducks grow with a diet of seafood such as small fishes instead of grains, which gives them a distinctively natural and less greasy taste.

The Cook, Kerry Hotel Pudong, Shanghai, 1388 Huamu Road, Pudong district; 021-6169-8888.


Stylish Chinese home cooking

Country Kitchen celebrates Beijing's seasonal bounty with a selection of cold appetizers, soups, home-style hot dishes and noodles. Our faves among the home-style Chinese courses has the stir-fried beef tenderloin with yam and bamboo shoots, which we ordered with steamed cornmeal buns with braised pork and newly harvested green chives with organic chicken eggs from Shunyi Farm. Other menu stars: Wok-fried ox-head meat, and stir-fried sea bass fillet with gan gu chili.

Country Kitchen, Rosewood Hotel, Jing Guang Centre, Hujialou, Chao-yang district; 010-6597-8888.

Healthy, tasty and delivered

If spring renewal means more focus on fitness after a slow winter of heavy foods, Factory Fresh has a spring lineup that keeps meals fun, delivered to your door. Four menu levels with up to three meals and two snacks per day are respectively scaled to your lifestyle: Fit (1,200 calories daily, for those eager to get in shape), Lifestyle (1,600 calories, for balanced energy all day), X4Mance (2,200 calories, for athletes and the active), and 80 Percent (800 calories, in two meals and a snack, for the busiest people). Our Tuesday meals this spring included chia-and-almond milk pudding with mango puree for breakfast, vegan "pancakes" for snack No 1, garlic chicken kebab with sides for lunch, spiced cassava muffin for snack No 2, and pan-seared Icelandic cod with quinoa for dinner. Evening delivery in many parts of Beijing from 798 Art Zone area for next-day meals; catering for groups and special events available.

Factory Fresh,; 156-1108-0348.

Steakhouse with flair

Potato espuma with sweet-potato Kashmir-curry ice cream? This hot-and-cold sensation alone was enough to keep us coming back to Grill 79's updated Sky Brunch menu for spring. But we found much more to love, including a pitch-perfect Caesar salad, foie gras with "broken eggs" (scrambled), and New Zealand lamb rack with mesclun greens. The creme Catalan dessert is a reminder that there's a Spanish chef in the kitchen. Thanks to a magnificently clear day on a recent weekend, we could enjoy the ambience of dining between one of the city's best wine cellars and a panoramic view of Beijing from our 79th-floor perch. Choose four courses for 388 yuan; add 188 for free-flow champagne.

79/F, China World Summit Wing, 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie, China World Trade Center Phase 3, Chaoyang district; 010-6505-2299.

Brunch with a good squirt

The folks at Migas say they've redone the weekend brunch menu because they get bored doing the same stuff all the time. The good news: They have an apparently bottomless recipe file to work with. New items include deep-fried chicken strips with aioli for dipping, lots of tapas, and pintxos (Basque for "spike), which are pieces of skewered bread with all kinds of savory toppings, spread the length of the bar for your browsing. Main courses include paella and grill meat of the day - lamb chops last weekend (happy sigh). Two things make a midday stop here especially fun: First, forget the cutlery and eat with your hands - messy but satisfying. Second, watch for the porron. This is a cross between a wine decanter and a watering can, and the staff will circulate to literally squirt wine into your mouth while your table companions count how many seconds you can drink without gasping for air. Food is 268 yuan per person; add 138 yuan for two-hour free-flow drink package.

Migas, 6/F, Nali Patio, 81 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang district; 010-5208-6061.

Ham with a pedigree

Chef Aniello Turco and his team are getting creative with what has been rated the world's best ham.

Through April 30, you can enjoy the taste of Joselito ham on a set menu at Mio (1,888 yuan per person), featuring dishes such as toro tuna belly and Joselito, Joselito risotto and brown sugar cake and Joselito crumble. Joselito Lab first started as a collaboration between Ferran Adria, the father of molecular cuisine, and the ham company, with the results served at the renowned elBulli in Spain. Mio is the first restaurant in Asia to showcase the results of a Joselito Lab experiment.

3/F, Four Seasons Hotel Beijing, 48 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang district, 010-5695-8522.

New tastes of Spain

There are so many authentic goodies to choose from the new Spanish-themed menu here, that we nearly passed on the Iberico ham starter. What were we thinking? Luckily our waiter steered us to this carefully sourced appetizer (380 yuan for 80 grams), which chef Maiker Valdivia presents on a big puff of toasted fresh bread. Diners can break the dough shell and eat bread and meat together with a light tomato relish, or take the bread as decoration and simply lift off the delicate ham slices to enjoy the rich, flavorful smoked meat on its own. Other items not to be missed: the seafood paella and the grilled octopus leg.

Aria, China World Hotel, 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang district; 010-6505-2266, Ext 36.

Easter In Beijing

Sweet April

Celebrate Easter for the whole month of April at the Conrad Hotel's Lobby Bar, where an Easter-themed high tea including chocolate eggs, chocolate rabbits, Easter cakes and beautiful meringues. 198 yuan plus 15 percent service charge per person, including a cup of coffee or tea.

1:30 pm-5 pm, through April 30; 29 North Dongsanhuan Road, Chaoyang district; 010-6584-6280.

Jazz and brunch

The Brickyard at Mutianyu promises fresh air, great scenery, an Easter egg hunts for the kids, a lavish country buffet with home-baked goodies and eggs to order. Plus live Jazz. Book a room at the resort the night before and wake up to Easter sunrise at the Great Wall.

The Brickyard, Beigou Village, Huairou district,; 010-6162-6506.

Contact the writers through

Ready for Easter at Conrad Beijing.

Iconic Spanish ham at Mio.

Seawater duck at The Cook.

Shredded toon with tofu at Xindalu.

Braised bighead carp fillet with garlic and ginger at Country Kitchen.

Savor the bites of spring 

Clockwise from top: Ready for Easter at Conrad Beijing; iconic Spanish ham at Mio; seawater duck at The Cook; shredded toon with tofu at Xindalu; braised bighead carp fillet with garlic and ginger at Country Kitchen. Photos Provided To China Daily

Celebrating tofu's essence

At The Brickyard at Mutianyu in Beijing's northern suburbs, chef Randhir Singh created this "China in a Bowl" dish for the restaurant's new spring menu. The artisanal tofu with spicy tomato sauce reflects the resort's commitment to wholesome, fresh, and local foods "and to supporting our neighbors," says co-founder James Spear. "We purchase the tofu we use from local makers who have workshops in their homes."

Pan Fried Artisanal Tofu with Spicy Tomato Sauce

4 portions

Ingredients for tofu

Artisanal village tofu 700g

Oil for pan frying


Crushed Black pepper

Ingredients for spicy tomato sauce

Red tomato 400g

Oil 150ml

Garlic 150g

Leeks 100g

Ginger 150g

Fresh green chillies 30g

Light soy sauce (LKC) 9g

Szechuan pepper 7g

Sesame oil 6ml

Cilantro sprig for garnish

Ingredients for round cabbage (or other green vegetable)

Round cabbage 500g

Method for spicy tomato sauce

1. Blanch and remove the skin of the red tomatoes, discard the seeds chop the tomatoes into dices, set aside.

2. Peel and finely chop garlic, ginger and leek, set aside.

3. Slit the fresh green chilies lengthwise, discard seeds and fine chop, set aside.

4. In a wok over medium heat add oil and put the szechuan pepper until dark brown, strain and discard the seeds and put the oil back on to the fire.

5. Add in the ginger, saute leeks until they just start to brown, add in the garlic and cook further with continuous stirring.

6. Add in the diced tomatoes and salt so as to dilute the tomatoes.

7. Cook until the moisture is gone, add in the green chilies, cook for another 2 minutes.

8. Add the light soy sauce and finish with sesame oil.

Method for pan-fried tofu

1. Slice the tofu into rectangular slice of 4cm long, 3cm wide, 1.5 cm thick.

2. Season with salt and black pepper and pan fry in a nonstick pan with vegetable oil until golden brown.

Method to pan fry cabbage or other green vegetable

In the same pan over low heat, saute the shredded round cabbage (500g), add in salt and pepper.


1. Put the hot fried slices of tofu on the hot steamed rice, put the spicy tomato sauce on top, followed by stir-fry cabbage.

2. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and enjoy hot.

Savor the bites of spring

(China Daily USA 03/22/2016 page8)